Well you’ve finally done it. After all these decades of playing the guitar you’ve finally decided it’s high time you learned the notes all across the fretboard. I’m proud of you. Learning the notes on the neck is a valuable asset in more ways than I can count. It can help your work with scales, chords and arpeggios, intervals in general, and any time you’re talking to someone else about what’s been happening on the neck of the guitar.
Getting to the point, here is a selection of tips and resources that can help expedite the learning process. Before you know it you’ll be naming frets off the top of your head without even seeing a guitar.
Fretboard Warrior is a program out on the loose that randomly selects a string and fret and your goal is to answer as many as you can correctly without screwing up within a period of time. I’ve had a history with this program and can vouch for it as an effective tool. What can make it more engaging is involving some friends. Some friends of mine and I used to compete to see who could get more correct answers. Adding friendly competition can give you the swift kick to the seater that you need to get things going as well.
(Edit: The fretboard warrior has apparently been removed from the internet 10/2018)
Write Those Notes Down
This of all things has easily had the greatest impact of all approaches I’ve taken to learning the guitar. Probably because I’ve done this one the most. It’s simple. Print out about a 50 baker’s dozen copies of this page and write all the notes in. Write all of the A’s, then the G’s. Then all the sharps and flats. Write down all the chords and arpeggios you’re working with.
I used to go on business trips at an old job and I’d do nothing but this for the entire plane ride. It will get easier far faster than you think and it translates over to the fretboard miraculously. Granted not everyone has a plane ride to kill, but it’s not hard to find time to fill out at least one sheet. If you can do that at least once a day you’re already on a crash course for success.
Visualize The Fretboard
I wouldn’t really describe this approach as hard, but it certainly is a bit weirder to do than the others. Simply thinking of the fretboard and the locations of the notes alone can do more for your understanding of the neck than you’d ever guess. It’s the sort of thing that’s right under your nose, but you’d never guess to try it. If you can see the neck in its entirety and locate the notes in your head you’d be surprised at how easily it’ll translate to when you have a guitar in your hand.
Side thought: It would be funny to see friends competing with this technique.
“Dude, I’m thinking of the neck way faster than you are.”
“No you’re not. You’re cheating.”
I’ve used each of the mentioned methods before and I’ll swear by them all as effective in their own way. Each offers a different approach, but the end result is the same, so to an extent it’s a matter of finding the way that works for you. The best part of this is each method I’ve suggested is completely free of charge.
The most important thing to consider is that what you put into this is 100% proportionate to what you get out of it. It’s hardly a challenging thing to do and the learning process can blaze by before you know it, so if you’re reading this, you don’t know your notes, and you want to get better, then get to it.